Ron Paul And The Loss of Liberty

The Agonist shares many of my reservations that a victory for Ron Paul would have the effect of reducing rather than increasing liberty in the United States. While Ron Paul has libertarian ideas in some areas, ultimately he is a social conservative which places him on the wrong side of many of today’s most important issues. As I’ve previously written:

While I sympathize with Paul’s opposition to the war and some of his other positions, his absurd claim that “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers” prevents me from considering him as a candidate, or believing his rhetoric of being a strict defender of the Constitution. Paul has supported keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, has co-sponsored the school prayer amendment, and supported keeping the Ten Commandments on a courthouse lawn. As with the other Republicans, Paul shows that he will cite the founding fathers and the Constitution when convenient, and ignore their principles when not.

With the balance on the Supreme Court tilting to the right, and with the religious right increasingly imposing their views on others through legislation, it is essential that we have political leaders who are willing to defend the ideas of separation of church and state which this nation was founded upon.

Today’s post at The Agonist is actually the second of two.The first post (which I missed while I was on vacation) concentrates on Paul’s opposition to abortion rights. This may be the most clear cut example of where the election of a social conservative such as Ron Paul could result in the loss of a liberty we now possess, assuming he picks Supreme Court justices who agree with him.

Today’s post at The Agonist is more broad based. Both stress a problem seen both by Paul and many more mainstream Republicans of arguing based upon federalism as opposed to considering outright restrictions upon the power of government. In order to guarantee liberties it is necessary that this be done at the national level. The same principles of defending liberties against the will of the majority at a federal level must apply at all levels of government. Allowing fundamental liberties to be decided by a majority on a state or local level viiolates the rights of the individual no less than if this was imposed from Washington. As The Agonist concludes:

I believe that the people’s rights should be secured at the highest level and maintained with ferocity. When you send decisions on issues such as abortion down to lower levels, you encounter greater and greater amounts of variation in outcomes. This is actually an inherent property of statistics: The smaller a given sample size, the larger the standard deviation. Some states will exercise petty tyranny over the lives of their citizens, while others will become bastions of freedom…

As decision making on basic rights devolves to lower levels, petty tyranny has a very good chance of taking hold. It’s often better to solidify our gains at the highest level (in our case, the federal government) and then use that as a springboard toward further liberty.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Ron Paul is not really on the side of liberty. He is on the side of strict constructionists who adhere to a literal reading of the constitution. Much of the rest of his politics flows from that. It’s mostly accidental, in my opinion, that some of his policies may bring the people more liberty.

I have no doubt that Paul believes he is “really on the side of liberty” and in some areas his policies would intentionally, as opposed to accidentally, result in more liberty. Unfortunately Paul defines liberty too narrowly, concentrating primarily on economic liberties and opposing “big government” at the federal level. Paul’s social conservativism and failure to differentiate between infringements on liberty at the local as opposed to the federal level would result in a decrease in individual liberty for many Americans.

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19 Comments

  1. 1
    CommonSenseMan says:

    I sympathize with your concerns about Paul’s religion. I’m an atheist who cringes every time God is brought into a moral argument. However, I think you have chosen a single emotional issue (abortion) to cloud the overall benefits of reducing the role of the Federal Government.

    I believe in the right to choose, but I’m certainly willing to let Americans have the abortion debate again if it means returning power back to where it was intended to be.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, I’m concerned about far more than abortion. I used abortion as the example as it is the most clear cut example where the choice of hhe next president could have a major effect upon the liberties of a large amount of hte population. That does not mean that it is the only example.

    My concern is also not simply with”the role of the Federal Government” but of the role of government at all levels.

    You may be willing to “have the abortion debate again” but that overlooks the actual problems. Framing it as debate sounds ok. Are you also willing to return to the days of shirt hanger abortions and loss of lives?

  3. 3
    CommonSenseMan says:

    As far as I understand it, the “actual problem” regarding abortion is that there is no clear consensus on whether an unborn baby is a life worth saving. To you and I, it is pretty clear that a woman should be able to make this decision for herself. More importantly, we also recognize that abortions will always take place regardless of what any “law” says on the matter.

    But there are always going to be trade-offs. This is just a classic “slippery slope” emotional issue that pro-choice people use to push Federal control. It is the larger picture that concerns me.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    The abortion debate has nothing to do with the question of “whether an unborn baby is a life worth saving.” Under most circumstances everyone would agree it is. The question comes down to when this conflicts with the rights of an lindividual to control her own body.

    “we also recognize that abortions will always take place regardless of what any “law” says on the matter.”

    Yes they will. And many women will suffer serious injuries and some will die as a result. Others will go to other states, but even this is an unjust imposition from government.

    Such self-autonomy is a liberty we now enjoy which Ron Paul would remove, placing him on the side of reducing individual liberty in America. Similarly a Paul victory could allow the religious right to impose more of their beliefs on the nation.

  5. 5
    Jason Andrew says:

    Ron, you wrote “While I sympathize with Paul’s opposition to the war and some of his other positions, his absurd claim that “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” Why don’t you explain why Ron Paul’s claim is absurd? I think it is right on. Where is the basis of a rigid separation of church and state? It didn’t exist in the founding documents of this nation or in the writings of the founding fathers.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    It most certainly did exist in the founding documents and in the writings of the founding fathers. I’m sure you’ll find plenty on this if you do a search for separation of church and state (ignoring the revisionist history of the right wingers who deny it). This topic has also come up several times here if you want to dig thru the blog posts on the topic. Americans United for Separation of Church and State provide some examples. Other sites provide others, and I recall a commenter here recently adding a long list of quotes to one of the discussions on this topic.

    Incidentally, even if we accepted the erroneous claim that separation of church and state was not intended by the founding fathers, that does not change the argument that Paul’s failure to accept this principle would result in a loss of liberties we now have.

  7. 7
    Jason Andrew says:

    I just read the first 10 or so quotes on the AUSCS website. None of them are support for the idea that the Founding fathers supported a RIGID separation of church and state. And the first quote is taken out of context. And if you look at historical practice, it is clear that the founding fathers did not believe in a RIGID separation of church and state. Separation of church and state is NOT the law and never has been. Neutrality towards religion is the law. The supreme court mentioned separation in an opinion in the early 1900s and quickly went away from it. You have to understand that there is a difference between separation of church and state as it is thought of today and the historical idea of religious freedom which holds that the government should not force a person to give money to a church or force a person to endorse a religious practice. The modern conception of religious liberty means silly stuff like no religious symbols on government property. It is clear that the founding fathers were not against religious displays. But just keep believing that Ron Paul’s assertion is ridiculous. Who cares about the truth if it doesn’t support our political beliefs…right?

    And even if some of the founding fathers did support a RIGID separation of church and state, something I see no evidence of, it really shouldn’t matter because the 1st amendment says no such thing. It clearly only prohibits the national government from estabilising a state religion like they had in England. It does not mandate or even mention any separation. That is the non-sensical work of the supreme court. And until the 14th amendent, the states were free to establish an religion. So it is just silly to hold up separation as some king of american value. The idea of separation is a recent creation of revisionists.

    And all this stuff about freedom on this web-site, I wonder if you support my freedom to opt out of Social Security, not have health insurance, not support the lazy-poor, enjoy dog fighting, etc? The answer may be on your web-site, but I am not going to waste any time looking for it.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    “The modern conception of religious liberty means silly stuff like no religious symbols on government property.”

    If you think that, you clearly have no understanding of what is meant by separation of church and stat.

  9. 9
    Jason Andrew says:

    And why does it seem that AUSCS is primarly quoting Madision and Jefferson (who was in France when the Bill of rights was passed)? Out of the dozens of founding fathers, they can only quote two that weakly support their view of rigid separation?

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    If you don’t like those quotes (or the First Amendment) it should’t be hard to find many more. Actually they do quote others beyond Jefferson and Madison.

  11. 11
    Jason Andrew says:

    Yes, I have no understanding. Great comeback to all I wrote. I’ll put that down as a win for me. Your position that the founding fathers supported a RIGID separation of church and state is so weak that I don’t think it can be honestly argued.

  12. 12
    Jason Andrew says:

    I think it is safe to say that they put their best quotes at the beginning. Your extreme position is unsupportable among the founding documents and the founding fathers.

  13. 13
    Ron Chusid says:

    My “extreme position?” I’m the one with the established position which represents the status quo (at least until Bush took office). Denial of separation of church and state is the extreme positiion and a denial of historical fact.

    Denial of separation of church and state also means a change from the status quo towards a situation of less liberty.

    “Yes, I have no understanding. Great comeback to all I wrote.”

    No, that’s the response to a specific item you said (“The modern conception of religious liberty means silly stuff like no religious symbols on government property.”)  This does indicate a profound ignorance of the topic. The only way you will win a debate with such ignorance of the topic  is by  declaring yourself the winner as you did. Otherwise  you have no argument. In order  to win any such debate you would have to first understand what is being debated (the meaning of separation of church and state) and then  show why the  postion held by all except the extreme right is incorrect. You have not provided any arguments to support your position other than to pretend that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and multiple writings which clarify the meaning of this Amendment do not exist.

  14. 14
    Ron Holland says:

    Please Support Ron Paul

    You can vote for Ron Paul in the Free Market Hall of Fame Poll of legislators and government officials at http://www.freedomfest.com/halloffame plus sign and comment on the Ron Paul Is Right – Abolish the Federal Reserve Petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/fed/petition.html
    You also might want to read “The Final Presidential Executive Order” a fictional story about a future terrorist attack against the US and learn how the government response elected Ron Paul as President of the United States at http://www.swissconfederationinstitute.org/swisspreserve14.htm

  15. 15
    Jason Andrew says:

    Ron, I started the debate by challenging you to prove the absurdity of Ron Paul’s assertion that the constitution and the writings of the founding fathers do not support the idea of a RIGID separation of church and state. You never put forth any evidence that Ron Paul’s assertion was absurd. I put forth arguments showing that separation of church and state is not the law and you ignored my points. So I am not sure what you are talking about.

    Who says separation of church and state is the status quo? I just took a first amendment class last fall. The professor, a left-wing nut that had been teaching first amendment law for 40 years, said that separation is not the law. So I don’t know where you get this idea that separation is the status quo. Prove it. Show me why separation is the status quo. You can’t because it is not. Separation has never been the law. When I say separation of church and state, I am tiling about a theory of interpretation of the establishment clause of the 1st amendment. Left-wing groups can say separation a million times, it still doesn’t make it the law or what the founding fathers intended. Have the courage to accept what the founding fathers intended. If they wanted separation, they would have actually used to term at some point in a debate or founding document.

    Taking my comment out of context and standing on it alone, is not an argument. The fact that all you only want to respond to that one sentence shows that you don’t have much to say.

    Show me any founding document that says separation of church and state. You can’t because there is none. I know what the first amendment says. There is an establishment clause which prevents the federal government from establishing a state religion and there is a free exercise clause that prevents the federal government from interfering with religious practice. There is nothing there about separation. And even if you did have a document by a founding father that was intended to clarify the meaning of the first amendment to mean separation, it would not matter because you would need some type of consensus among the writings of the founding fathers that the 1st amendment means separation. There is none. Historical practice shows that the founding fathers did not support separation of church and state as the term is used today.

    I am pretty sure that Thomas Jefferson was in France and was not involved in the debate about the first amendment, so whatever he said really isn’t relevant to the meaning of the first amendment. And that one quotes from him, that is a personal letter not any type of official government document, does not support the modern idea of separation of church and state as used by AUSCS. Again, even if it did, you would still need a consensus among the writings of the founding fathers if you wanted to argue that their writings proved that they intended the first amendment to mean separation of church and state. Religious liberty is an American ideal. Separation of church and state is not.

    If separation is the law, then why can religous groups use government property for religous services? Why does the military support religious worship by providing chaplins? Why do most legislatures start with a prayer? Why does the government give tax exempt status to churches? Why can a minister serve as an elected official? Why are there religous motifs on numerous government buildings? Saying that separation of church and state is the status quo is non-sensical. The status quo is that the government should be neutral and should not promote or discourage any particular religious practice or religion in general.

    I don’t know what else to say. You are wrong. Get off your left-wing nutball blogs and actually take an objective look at facts. You must be living in a bubble where you only encounter people who agree with you, so you are convinced that you are correct even though you have virtually no support for your assertions. It is called group think. It is a common phenomenon on these political blogs. If you think separation of church and state would be the best policy, you are free to think that, but it is not the law of the USA and never has been.

  16. 16
    Ron Chusid says:

    The problem remains that you don’t understand what is meant by separation of church and state. It is not about religious groups being able to use government property for religious services and all the other things you mention. These are just trivial side issues. I am speaking of the status quo. You only believe it is not the status quo as you are envisioning a totally different idea than what is spoken of when we speak of preserving the separation of church and state.

    Your claim that there is no separation of church and state just does not hold up. Not only is it reflected in Constitution and the writings of the founding fathers, it is reflected in many court decisions. This includes the prohibitions on teaching evolution in the schools.

  17. 17
    Jason Andrew says:

    I am going to issue this challenge to you once more. Show me where the constitution talks about a separation of church and state. Show me these writings of the founding fathers that reflect a RIGID separation of church and state. I saw two that might be some support for the idea when I looked at the AUSCS website. But assuming that the AUSCS interpretation of those two quotes is correct, which is very questionable, those two do not even come close to the consensus you would need to say that the 1st amendment means separation. Those quotes say that the government cannot force people to pay money to support a relgion, they say that the government cannot tell churches how to worship, that the government cannot establish an official church, that the government cannot force people to hold a particular relgious belief or attend religous services. None of those principles leads to the principle of separation of church and state unless you take them out of context and the look at them without analyzing the history of the US government. Those principles when viewed in the proper context lead to the principle of neutrality which is how the supreme court has interpreted the establishment clause of the 1st amendment.

    There is no prohibition of teaching evolution in the schools. Evolution is a preferred topic of biology. I know you accidentally put evolution instead of creationism, so I won’d try to make a point of your mistake. I haven’t read the court opinions on teaching creationism in public schools, but I am pretty sure that the basis of not allowing it is that teaching creationism would be the equivalent of advancing religion…i.e. not being neutral towards religion but advancing religion. Yes, there are many court decisions that say the government cannot do things such as have teacher led prayer in school or post religious articles in a way that is not primarly for education. Those decisions attempt to build some theory around the provisions of the 1st amendment in order to give it meaning. One way of looking at the establishment clause of the 1st amendment is to say it mandates a separation of church and state. But that is not the accepted theory used by US courts and never has been. The closest thing to an accepted theory of the establishment clause is NEUTRALITY. If the government takes some action that advances or limits religion or a particular religion, the supreme court will strike it down because the government must remain neutral when it comes to religion. That is very different than SEPARATAION.

    The problem is that you don’t understand what separation of chruch and state means. I will say it once again…it is a theory of interpretation of the 1st amendment. Goofy left-wing anti-religous groups have planted the idea in popular culture that the establishment clause mandates a separation of church and state. Most people are not constitutional scholars, so they don’t know that this is not the law and never has been. I am telling you, separation is not the law and never has been. Whatever vague notion you are calling separation of church and state, a definition that encompasses the status quo, is not a definition. It is just your explanation for the supreme court’s holdings because you are ignorant of the law.

    If separation of church and state is the status quo, and there is supposed to be a wall separating church and state, then all of the examples I listed in my last response would be unconstitutional. Yet the supreme court has allowed them. So while there are limits to what the government can do when it comes to religion, there is no separation. And the public schools can teach about religion, they just can’t do it in a way that advances a particular religion or religion in general. If they wanted to teach a course on the history of religion, that does not violate the constitution. Therefore, THERE IS NO SEPARATION.

    I’m done with this debate because you obviously can’t think outside of the thought bubble that you are in. You can’t even give a definition for separation of church and state. You can’t debate something if you can’t even define it. “The status quo” is not a definition.

    How about a new topic? Why do you hate George Bush and why are you afraid of him? I always get lots of laughs out of the irrational fear and hatred that you people have for George Bush. So why do you think he is the devil?

    Oh, and congratulations on not believing all of the goof ball conspiracy theories about 9/11. It is too bad that most of the people that read your website are conspiracy kooks, as evidenced by the comments to your post about 9/11 conspiracy theories.

  18. 18
    Ron Chusid says:

    Your “challenge” has already been answered but you keep trying to redefine separation of church and state to mean something other than what it is, and then claim it doesn’t exist. Regardless of what you think, the principle of separation of church and state was supported by the founding fathers,is reflected in the Constitution (both in the First Amendment and in the intentional absence of reference to God or religion prior to the First Amendment), and is the basis for many judicial decisions. I’ve added some additional references on sepearation of church and state to the reference section at the right if you are interested in reading further.

    I’ve never said Bush is the devil or that I fear him. He has many policy decisions I disagree with, including the war, his efforts to increase executive power, his Medicare D plan, and his views on civil liberties and many social issues.

    “It is too bad that most of the people that read your website are conspiracy kooks…”

    That was two readers who supported the 9/11 conspiracy theories. They are not necessariliy representative of most of the readers. When this topic came up before, many others did have comments opposed to such conspiracy theories. I think that most people who do not believe in the conspiracy theories don’t take them seriously enough to want to spend the time on such posts. As there are now over four thousand subscribers to the RSS feed along with regular readers I can’t really say for sure what the consensus is of the readers here, but I bet that the supporters of the conspiracy theories are in the minority.

  19. 19
    Jason Andrew says:

    I never redefined separation of church and state. I think I have always said that it is a theory of interpretation of the 1st amendment’s establishment clause. And you can say that the writings of the founding fathers support separation of church and state as much as you want. That does make it true. I have already thoroughly proved you wrong. Have the courage to think outside your bubble. I used to be a left-winger too (although you probably think of yourself as a libertarian or something like that). Then I got out of high school, looked at the world, and realized that most left-wing views are a bunch of alarmist bunk that can only be held if you are detached from the real world.

    I never said that you said George Bush was the devil. I just assumed you thought something like that. I guess I was wrong. I don’t have a problem admitting I am wrong when I am. So you admit that he is a good but misguided man? Or do you think he sits in a dark room and tries to find ways to undermine the constitution for his own purposes?

    I actually watched a very long conspiracy theory video on the 9/11 attacks. It talked about how there was no plane that hit the pentagon and that the government used explosives to bring down the world trade towers, etc. It was pretty easy to see that it was all BS. They would ask a bunch of questions that raised doubts about what happened on 9/11, but they never actually tried to prove their theory.

    I’ll try to check back in the next few days so that I can post some more “extreme religous right wing views” on your site. It needs some balance. (I know you never accused me of having “extreme religous right wing views.”)

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